Let’s give all due credit to the Boston Celtics — staring in the face of a must win night they brought it like you expect of a veteran, battle-tested team. Kevin Garnett was fantastic in the paint, Rajon Rondo controlled the flow. Their defensive intensity was stepped up. Boston won 101-91.
But this was another one of those nights where the Heat looked like the Cavaliers. There was a whole lot of LeBron James — 34 points and 8 rebounds — and nothing else. The rest of the Heat must have missed the flight.
And so Game 4 becomes a real test for the Heat. They have played these playoffs like a team that thinks it can just flip the switch. So far they have. But it’s a dangerous game because some day the power is not coming back on.
Can Miami get back to being a two-headed monster with Dwyane Wade and LeBron both attacking and aggressive? Because when they do that the role players — Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, et al — find their comfort level as well. Like we saw Mike Miller do in the fourth quarter.
Wade is the real key here — he looked like the guy from before he had his knee drained, the guy from Game 2 of the Pacers series. Wade had no free throws in this game. He didn’t attack and get to the line once. Miami needs the aggressive Wade back.
If he shows up and if the Heat can beat a rejuvenated Celtics in Game 4 there is a lesson to be learned — the Heat can’t do this anymore if they want a ring. Not against a resilient Celtics squad that they have given new hope to; and especially not against the Spurs or the Thunder next round. There the Heat are the underdogs and there is a very small margin for error. They can’t take another night off.
Miami was pretty much terrible all the way around the block from the end of the first quarter on. They got outrun in transition by the old legs of the Celtics. Their defensive rotations fluctuated between slow and nonexistent. They kept switching on picks then the Celtics would expose the mismatch. Rondo came off those picks and there was nobody between him and the basket.
You run off your defense — there are no easy buckets or impressive alley-oops for Miami if they keep taking the ball out of the basket. Meanwhile in Game 3 the Celtics ran a lot, because they were getting stops.
Miami needs to flip the switch back to on for both Wade and their defense it before the next game. Boston is a team with confidence now, they are champions playing with desperation, they will be a tough out.
And Miami had better leave the switch on for the rest of the playoffs because if it gets switched to off for another game — this series or the next — they will find the power is not going to come back on.